POLITICS

Trump's Federal Reserve Pick Said The Working Poor Aren't Taxed Enough

Stephen Moore also once noted that income inequality is a problem — and the solution is more billionaires.

Another day, another disqualifying set of realizations about Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump’s pick for a seat on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Mother Jones resurfaced the latest set of offensive comments by Moore, which he made at a 2012 fundraising dinner for the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a C-SPAN appearance and a 2013 appearance at FreedomFest, a libertarian conference. 

(A rundown of some of Moore’s other greatest hits include him effectively defending everything that contributes to sexual assault on college campuses, calling female referees “an obscenity” and taunting his ex-wife while cheating on her.)

Among the more questionable ideas Moore espoused in the comments Mother Jones flagged concern income inequality, and suggest he either doesn’t understand economic fundamentals (which is possible) or ― arguably worse ― he does, but intentionally misleads audiences for the sake of applause.

At his CCHF speech, for instance, Moore drew plenty of applause with a diatribe against the working poor, whom he attacked for not having to pay income tax. He told the audience that’s equivalent to half of the event’s attendees only covering 2 percent of their food costs, while the other half were forced to pick up the extra burden.

At the time of Moore’s speech in 2012, people excused from paying federal income tax would have had precious little income to begin with. The standard deductions that year were $5,950 for a single filer, $8,700 for a single parent, and $11,900 for a married household. With personal, spousal, and dependent exemptions factored in, Moore is effectively arguing for higher taxes on single people making less than $9,750, heads of household making less than $12,500, married couples together making less than $19,500, and widow/widowers with a child making less than $15,700.

And yet those people still paid taxes — payroll taxessales taxes and gas taxes, which actually hit the working poor harder, as they have to devote more of their income to pay for them.

If Moore were serious about asking people who are capable of paying federal income taxes to actually do so, he’d be better advised to start on the other end of the income spectrum. Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told MarketWatch a few of the craftiest high-income earners “have adopted tax strategies that occasionally eliminate their federal income tax liability.”

While Moore spent much of the time in these public appearances understating poverty and inequality, he did briefly acknowledge in a 2013 C-SPAN interview that income inequality presents a problem.

“Even in the Gilded Age, we didn’t have so much wealth concentrated in so few people,” he said. Instead of any sort of income distribution, however, Moore said the solution is less envy and more billionaires who create companies that in turn create millionaires.

“What we need in this country is more Bill Gates, and more Warren Buffets, and more people like Steve Jobs,” he said. 

ClarificationThis article has been amended to account for the 2012 tax code’s personal, spousal and dependent exemptions. 

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